Game Review: Zen Pinball 2 – Deadpool

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No matter what you do right now, there’s no avoiding the “Merc With A Mouth”, Deadpool. From cult comicbook phenomenon to major movie star, even audiences who had never heard of the character a few years ago beyond the cameo appearance in the first Wolverine movie can’t have ignored the hype surrounding him, in no part thanks to the enthusiasm of the film’s star Ryan Reynolds.

I have to be honest that I was amongst those who had no real exposure to the character before other than seeing comics on the shelves in my local stores and the relatively brief appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, along with passing appearances in a few games. At the time of writing this, I still haven’t even seen the movie, so it left me apprehensive when I approached this pinball table for Zen Pinball 2 on the PS3 and PS Vita. My initial concern, despite my love of the work of Zen Studios on the game and appreciation of the consistency and quality of all of the tables they had produced to-date, was whether or not I really needed to know anything about Deadpool himself to be able to get any real enjoyment out of playing the game. Was the table going to be able to stand on its own merits and keep up with the standards I’d come to expect from Zen Studios…?

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In recent months Zen Studios haven’t released a lot of Marvel tables for their Zen Pinball / PinballFX series, focusing more on Star Wars and other licenses. While there have been a few, it’s meant that any that have been released like Ant Man and Avengers: Age Of Ultron have had to be of a much higher standard than usual to stand out from the crowd. Being released some time ago now (but obviously not reviewed here yet so one I’m looking at now), this table is based more on the character rather than the film. As a character, Deadpool isn’t one I’d consider to be one of Marvel’s mainstream characters. The disfigured, genetically modified anti-hero posesses a wide range of super-abilities including accelerated healing (akin to that of Wolverine) and the wise-cracking character is notorious for “breaking the fourth wall”, directly addressing readers and being self-aware of being a comic book character throughout.

Okay, that much I did know but would that really prepare me for playing the table? Well, didn’t really have to be worried. Deadpool is one of the most insane, addictive tables to have come out of Zen Studios yet in their nine year history of producing pinball games! Every time they create a new table, Zen Studios attempt to add something new to their tables and while realism goes straight out of the window with the characters that have been added to the tables, it’s always been fascinating to see just how they manage to integrate them into the game, or whether they are merely there for decoration (as they did with one of their earliest tables, Street Fighter II).

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What really makes this table stand out from most of the other releases from Zen Studios is that the game just oozes character from start to finish. This applies whether you’re just playing the regular aspects of the table, or the special game modes (broken down into individual “Issues” of the comic). Throughout play, Deadpool is seen wandering around the table doing his own thing, making comments, talking about the game itself, singing(!), blowing things up, getting blown up but most importantly really bringing the game to life in a way that not many other Zen Pinball tables have been before. Even though the script does get repetitive, it fits the game superbly and never grates and that’s down to the superb voice acting from Nolan North reprising his role from previous video game and animation work as Deadpool… and I swear that you’ll never look at Nathan Drake in the same light again after playing this!

Visually it’s easily on a par with all of the other Marvel tables with superb comic table artwork and incredible attention to detail in the background. You could easily get distracted with the amount going on or things to see on the table or the characters that you can interact with. On one of comic Issues that you play, Deadpool has to defeat three comic fans who are attacking him and if you look closely, each of them is wearing a different Marvel comics t-shirt. No, it doesn’t make a difference to the gameplay at all or signifies anything to the gameplay itself, but it’s a nice touch that just makes that game that bit better.

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I really can’t fault the overall quality of the graphics and the sound though (including the thumping rock soundtrack) and Zen Studios have excelled themselves once again. It didn’t make any difference whether I was playing the PS3 or the PS Vita version – both looked equally spectacular and while naturally the graphics on the PS3 version were better defined, the handheld managed to cope admirably. The only noticeable differences between the two that I noticed during play were that there was the odd difficulty in reading text in the speech bubbles that appear above Deadpool’s head and the Vita version appeared to be slightly darker (although that could have been as a result of the OLED screen on the PS Vita just as much as the game itself) but in terms of the game itself there’s nothing to differentiate between the two.

On the PlayStation versions, as always the table is Cross Buy allowing you to get the PS3, PS Vita and PS4 versions for a single purchase but there is no Cross Play support for the game’s multiplayer modes. The only function that does exist is shared online highscores between the versions (although each console still has its own local leaderboards). Maintaining the modes of all of the previous titles in the series, multiplayer support is by way of the traditional arcade style with each playing taking it in turns once a ball is lost. Online multiplayer games offer several modes of play allowing you to have games running against set goals. These are either timed or score based and rather than having a set number of balls at your disposal, you lose a percentage of your score each time you lose a ball. Progress between yourself and the other online players is shown by a race line at the top of the screen and while you don’t interact on screen directly with the other players, it’s incredibly competitive and adds a great deal to what’s already a compelling table.

I have to be honest and say that this has quickly become one of my favourite tables so far for Zen Pinball. It’s easy to pick up and play but the taunts and wisecracks tease you to keep playing and come back to attempt to beat your personal best far more than most of the other tables do, especially when Deadpool hurls abuse at you during the game over sequence. It’s loaded with humour, looks and feels great, is one of the most frustratingly addictive tables that I have played on any pinball game on any system and is incredible value for money. There really is no excuse for you to not own this table right now. And if you don’t buy it, I’ll arrange to send Deadpool around to sort you out. Period.

Version Tested: PS3 / PS Vita (also available for PS4, Android, iOS, XBox 360 and XBox One, the latter running on PinballFX)

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